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Dade City sues 2 owners of downtown shops

(ran PC edition)

City officials have sued a prominent downtown business couple, claiming the two haven't obtained required business occupational licenses and owe the city more than $32,000 in fines.

In two foreclosure lawsuits filed last week in Circuit Court, City Attorney Bill Brewton reports that in December the city began fining Jean and James Novotny $50 a day on two business they own downtown, Remember When and Dade City Mall, when the Code Enforcement Board ruled the couple had not obtained city occupational licenses for them.

The lawsuit asks a judge to foreclose on the Novotnys' property to cover fines that had reached more than $20,000 by July 24 and were continuing to accrue at $50 per day for each store.

According to state records, the Novotnys also own the Farmhouse Deli, The Corner Emporium and Meridian Avenue Antiques, all downtown businesses.

County records show the couple own property downtown valued at more than $400,000, including the Kiefer Building at the corner of Seventh Street and Pasco Avenue.

The occupational licenses the city claims are required are available at City Hall, with prices set according to the square footage of the business and the amount of retail merchandise in inventory.

Most stores downtown fall into the category that requires a $60 annual license for a business with less than 3,000 square feet. The largest category, for businesses with more than 10,000 square feet, requires an annual $120 license.

James Novotny was not available Wednesday, but in March, when Brewton asked the City Commission for permission to investigate the Code Board's complaints, Novotny said he had met all city requirements and said he expected everything would quickly work out.